Our aviculturist Rosemary Vander Lee says it was a lightbulb moment when she first visited New Zealand and saw birds like takahe, kiwi and kokako which you don’t find anywhere else in the world.
Knowing her work could have a significant impact on species like these, she and husband Bruce (yes, our assistant director) traded skunks and snakes for possums, rats and stoats as their most despised nasties and moved from the USA.
Rosemary has a BSC in Wildlife and Fisheries Biology and a Masters in Wildlife Ecology and began her conservation career working for the US Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps funded programme covered over 1,000 miles of the Missouri River, from the Canadian border to Nebraska. Dams on the river impacted on nesting birds so Rosemary managed the captive breeding facility, taking eggs from birds in vulnerable riverbank areas, hatching and hand raising them in captivity and then returning them to the river environment.
Moving to New Zealand in 2006 she began working for DOC at Pukaha Mount Bruce. As the Captive Wildlife Management Programme Manager she oversaw husbandry of 10 captive species for breeding and advocacy programmes.
A move to Nelson has seen her working with Project Janszoon providing technical support for our avian captive breeding and release programmes. She is also DOC’s captive co-ordinator for the South Island kaka and kakariki programmes.
On the side Rosemary runs a professional pet sitting business and is an enthusiastic member of local sewing and crafting groups.
Rosemary Vander Lee - Aviculturist